In a week where we celebrated our nation’s writers with arguably our most vociferous enthusiast for NZ writers John Campbell, as he hosted the recipients of the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement, our kids’ reading habits also made the headlines, again, and for all the wrong reasons.
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) has consistently demonstrated the strong relationship between students’ level of reading confidence and their reading achievement.
Since its inception in 2001, PIRLS has shown that our Year 5 students are less confident readers than their international peers.
The importance of access to books and New Zealand students' reading confidence is the latest MOE report in response to PIRLS data.
It looks at the different ways Year 5 students access books and then examines the relationship between reading at home and their reading confidence. The premise is that having access to books means children are more likely to read, particularly for pleasure, which in turn increases their reading mileage. Increasing reading mileage is more likely to increase both confidence and achievement.
It is an excellent report and there is much to be gleaned but let’s look at one of the key findings.
Reading for fun at home had a much stronger, positive relationship with students’ reading confidence than simply having access to a lot of books, but having access to at least a reasonable size collection at home meant children were more likely to read for fun than children with few books.
And in case you’ve forgotten why all this matters, reading for pleasure has been identified by the OECD as the single most important indicator of a child’s future success - more so than their socio-economic status. As well as the obvious academic outcomes, reading for pleasure increases empathy, cross-cultural understanding and wellbeing. We read to increase our understanding of the world and our place in it, and we read because it makes a crappy day better. In short, it makes us happier.
There are many ways to grow a reader and a collective approach will bear the most fruit; our kids can’t do this by themselves.
First, let’s support our young readers by enjoying reading ourselves. When did you last pick up a book and read it in full view of your child? Modelling the enjoyment of reading is one of the most important things you can do to grow a reader who loves reading.
Show your kids reading matters by allocating time each day to read, and talk about what you are reading.
Let’s make reading visible. We know that a lot of our reading is done online, but we can’t see it. Read that book on the bus, in the park at lunchtime, on the plane - anywhere you can be seen reading.
Let’s support our school libraries and school librarians who champion reading and readers in schools, by letting your school know how important the library is to you and your whānau.
Too many kids have too few, or no books at home. A lack of books equates to a lack of opportunity to read. If you have the means, buy a kid a book: one for you and one to donate to the school library.
Support the amazing work of Duffy Books in Homes and since it's Christmas, Kiwi Christmas Books and the Kāinga Pukapuka - My Home Library project. Sign your child up to our Summer Reading Challenge (starting December 14).
C’mon New Zealand, buy a kid a book this summer and get reading.
- Juliet Blyth is CEO of Read NZ Te Pou Muramura